We had a jam packed first two days in Budapest, and it continued for our remaining days, filled with more metro rides, a trip out to see old Communist Statues, exploring the Buda side of Budapest, and we even had time for two Art Museums, one small Art Gallery and a Synagogue! No time to waste.
We knew we wanted to see Memento Park, which is on the outskirts of town. It is a park filled with the Communist era statues from around the city that were removed from their original locations and relocated here.
We took the above ground tram to a mall, and then had to catch a bus. At the mall, which was not a very westernized mall, but still had shops and stalls selling perishable and non-perishable goods, there was a food court on the top level. There was a Chinese food place, and we ate some excellent mall Chinese food, which was pretty spicy to boot. After not having eaten Chinese food in a year-and-a-half, it was so good.
After we finished eating we were on the bus, for the hour long ride to Memento Park. We had seen Rick Steves’ show on Budapest and he traveled to Memento Park about 15 years ago, and not much has changed since then, except now there is a nominal entrance fee. It was a very hot, very sunny day, not ideal for walking around an outside statue museum, but they sell water at the entrance, and we went threw a few.
Lenin is on the left, Marx and Engels are on the right.
Once inside, all the Communist era (1949-1989) statues that were placed around Budapest and Hungary are exhibited, with the artist’s name and name of the statue in small placards attached to the brick platforms. Once inside, you can see two statues far off in the distance.
Many are of grand size, all designed in similar styles, but the largest is the right-hand one above. Here is Jesse next to it, for scale.
There are many other cool statues and monuments found on the grounds.
It does not take long to see all the statues and once finished we picked out a soviet era postcard to take back as a souvenir (and some more water). Across the road is a small museum with write-ups of the communist era and how it ended in Hungary, as well as a theater screening a movie that is made up of clips from Communist Era propaganda movies. Directly across from the entrance you see these boots:
They are the remains of a massive statue built to honor Jozef Stalin in 1951; the statue was torn down in 1989 with the fall of Communism, and the boots were all that remained. While it is a trek out to visit Memento Park, it is well worth it, for the history and uniqueness. We waited for the bus to take us back to the city, this time taking a slightly different route back, crossing the Danube over the Liberty Bridge.
We returned to the center of town, and while we thought about heading back to the hotel, we saw the Museum of Illusions on the map, and it was close, so we made a stop. It was a quick stop, since it isn’t a big “museum” but it is fun and Jesse and I had a good time exploring and taking silly pictures.
The next day we returned to the Buda side, starting at Vienna’s Gate, working our way down to Fisherman’s Bastion, and ending at the Buda Castle. But first, we found a place to eat a good lunch of cold raspberry soup, shrimp and greens salad and a tasty pizza (you may have noticed we have not eaten any Hungarian food yet. Not on purpose, but something we needed to rectify before leaving Budapest).
The streets here are quaint, there are few, if any, driving cars, and the buildings are all historic and painted in bright colors.
We wandered into the first Synagogue in Budapest, built in the 13th century. It is currently a working Synagogue but the original was long destroyed; however we read about the history of the Jews in Hungary, saw some very old tombstones and wall markings from its’ earliest days.
We were just strolling down the street, when we saw a sign for the Koller Gallery, which said it had art, was open, and free, and those are the three things we love to see when exploring a city, so we went inside. There were a couple of statues out front, one with an umbrella.
We were buzzed inside and met by a nice woman who said we could look around, take pictures, but she said to start on the top, third floor, as it was hot up there, and work our way down to the main floor where the A/C was in full effect. So we walked up all the stairs, and found the room that Hungarian sculptor and artist Amerigo Tot used as a studio. It had his sculptures and pictures, as well as a great view of the Danube out the window. Amerigo Tot was also an actor, you may recognize him as Michael’s bodyguard in Godfather II.
There was a lot of cool art and sculptures (many for sale) on the multiple floors and basement of this gallery; however the back yard was the highlight.
We made haste after the gallery, because we wanted to see the Hungarian National Gallery, located inside Buda Castle, and it closed at six. It seemed like every museum closed at six, so in order to see more than one in a day, one had to take advantage of the daylight. On the way we passed through Fisherman’s Bastion, the 17th century fortress with excellent views of the Danube.
Very nearby is the Matthias Church, built in the 14th century, with its colorful roof tiles and multiple towers.
Also found here is the St. Stephen Statue; Stephen being the first King of Hungary way back in year 1000. It is a very creepy statue due to the oxidation of the materials used in constructing it.
We had no time to dawdle, as we had to make it the Buda Castle so we would have time to explore the museum. We reached the gate of the castle,
walked down the stairs, under the eagle,
through the courtyard,
and past the statue of the man on a horse (this one is of Prince Eugene of Savoy),
and into the Hungarian National Art Gallery, inside of Buda Castle.
There is a permanent collection at the Museum, made up of Medieval to Contemporary Art, mostly of Hungarian Artists but many others, as well as the opportunity to look out upon the city from one of the towers. There was also a temporary exhibit on Budapest Art from the Art Deco Period which was super cool (with more poster art in Budapest for Art’s Sake):
A few of my favorites from the permanent collection are below:
Some Contemporary Art:
There was also a room that mirrored a turn-of-the-century Parisian salon, which would have all the paintings crammed together on a wall, with little space between them.
Here are some other pictures around the Museum:
It was a great museum to visit full of lots of great paintings and sculptures and exhibits; after a couple hours, and the long walk we had to get there, we were bushed. We left the museum, checked in on taking the funicular down the hill, but it was too expensive, so used our feet and walked the winding path down to the the base of the funicular (but still took some pictures at the top and the bottom), where we caught a bus back to our hotel.
After a quick rest, Jesse found a nearby Hungarian restaurant, so we did get to eat Hungarian food (which was really good) so we did not go hungry that evening (haha). Later that night we went to visit and scope out Heroes Square, where great statues are found, along with the Museum of Fine Arts, that we planned to visit in the morning, before we left Budapest. That part can be found in the Budapest at Night Post but let’s skip ahead to our visit during the daytime to Heroes Square.
Heroes Square honors the leaders and famous Hungarians; it is best visited at night, when the square is lit up, as in the post, but during the daytime it is quite something to see. The Fine Arts Museum is to the left of the square, and we had a couple of hours before our train left to see it.
As you can see by the above picture, they had a temporary exhibit on Henri Matisse; but the permanent collection is quite impressive as well. Here were some of my favorites from the Matisse exhibit:
The Museum also has a lot of biblical art, starting with Christian paintings from the famous Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco:
Two by Renaissance Master Raphael (behind heavy glass):
Some other favorites:
From inside the Museum:
It is a great Fine Arts Museum and rival some of the best in Europe and should definitely be visited if one even has a passing interest in Fine Art. We took the metro back to our hotel for the last time, picked up our bags, and were off to the train station.
Budapest was a lot of fun and there were still so many things we did not have time to do, and we did even more stuff I couldn’t fit into these three posts. We loved our time in Budapest and cannot wait to visit again. We bid a see you later to the city and boarded our 15-hour train to Bucharest, Romania. More on that ride, and our visit to Bucharest, coming soon!